Stimulus characteristics within directives: Effects on accuracy of task completion

David M. Richman, David P. Wacker, Linda J. Cooper-Brown, Krista Kayser, Kimberly Crosland, Tracy J. Stephens, Jennifer Asmus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Three experiments were conducted in an outpatient setting with young children who had been referred for treatment of noncompliant behavior and who had coexisting receptive language or receptive vocabulary difficulties. Experiment 1 studied differential responding of the participants to a brief hierarchical directive analysis (least-to-most complex stimulus prompts) to identify directives that functioned as discriminative stimuli for accurate responding. Experiment 1 identified distinct patterns of accurate responding relative to manipulation of directive stimulus characteristics. Experiment 2 demonstrated that directives identified as effective or ineffective in obtaining stimulus control of accurate responding during Experiment 1 continued to control accurate responding across play activities and academic tasks. Experiment 3 probed effects of the interaction between the type of directive (effective vs. ineffective) and the reinforcement contingency (differential reinforcement for attempts vs. differential reinforcement for accurate responses) on accurate task completion and disruptive behavior. Results suggested that behavioral escalation from inaccurate responding to disruptive behavior occurred only when ineffective directives were combined with differential reinforcement for accurate task completion. The overall results are discussed in terms of developing a methodology for identifying stimulus characteristics of directives that affect accurate responding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-312
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Antecedent experimental analyses
  • Differential reinforcement
  • Discriminative stimuli
  • Instructional hierarchy
  • Stimulus control


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